Tuesday, October 16, 2012



First of all, that’s one of those funny-looking words, once you write it.  Three-fifths of it is vowels, two of them silent.  You really could get by with “ile”-----don’t you love English?!?!?

I’ve been thinking about this word lately.  It started a few years ago, listening to a news story out of Washington, talking about Congress.  You’ve heard similar stories many times, how legislation gets bogged down when Congressmen can’t agree, and there is no cooperation “across the aisle.”  Cameron sagely replied, “They need to get rid of the aisle.”

Interesting word.  There are aisles in churches, aisles in theaters, aisle in grocery stories.  In Walmart they put displays of bargains in the center of the aisle.  People walk down the aisle, people are rolling in aisles.  Wiktionary (just learned Wikipedia had that resource) lists these definitions:

  1. A clear path through rows of seating.
  2. A clear corridor in a supermarket with shelves on both sides containing goods for sale.
  3. Any path through an otherwise obstructed space.
I wonder about the word itself.  So similar to “isle”, which implies isolated, alone, surrounded by a barrier.  Could it be that A-isle is the opposite?  Anti-isle?  Together, in a group, not isolated?  Can’t prove any of that from the limited research I’ve done, but makes me wonder.

So, anyway, back to Congress-----they really do seem to do most everything depending on which side of the aisle they are on.  Democrats vote one way, Republicans vote another.  Which one will “win” the House or the Senate?  Will the President be from the same party as the one that wins?  The message is clear-----nothing is going to happen unless everyone is on/from the same side of the aisle.

And this Presidential-election year, I’m more in tune than ever to the messages I’m receiving about how I should vote.  ESPECIALLY from well-meaning Christians.  I mean, either it’s “how can a Christian vote for anyone but a Republican----I mean, we all KNOW, that’s the Christian party…..” or “Jesus would vote Democrat, because He CARED about people.”  ARRGGGH!!  I’m sticking to my usual plan, and no one will know who I’m voting for-----keeps me out of a lot of awkward conversations, from people who feel it is their responsibility to change my “wrong thinking”.

I keep saying I need a third candidate, another choice.  In multiple races.  Two choices isn’t enough.  It’s not black and white, it’s gray.  It’s not right or left, it’s more in the middle.  It’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s middle-of-the-road.  And if Wiktionary is right, it’s definitely “clearer” in the aisle, where there are no obstructions.

Yep, Cameron’s right.  I’m voting for the aisle.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Our boys have loved baseball for as long as I can remember.  One was an Orioles fan, one was a Braves fan.  (I thought we were really smart encouraging that, so that they’d each have different interests, and their teams would never compete against each other-----THEN inter-league play began…..).  They played Little League.   They played whiffle ball in the back yard, and hit tennis balls out in the street, practiced pitching with a pitch-back in the back-yard.  We went to college games, minor-league games, MLB games.  We toured stadiums.  We waited after games until the wee hours, hoping to get autographs---sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t.  We went to baseball card shows, they collected baseball cards, sorted baseball cards, categorized baseball cards, counted baseball cards.  We spent one whole summer with Aaron putting his cards into binders, and dictating the player, the year, the card brand, and the book, page and position number where he was filing the card, and I typed them into a spreadsheet.  (Am I a good mom or what?).  Cameron even sang the National Anthem at an Orioles game with our church youth choir.  Our vacations ALWAYS included something related to baseball-----one trip was planned around the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory and a Cincinnati Reds game, where it was 107 degrees at game time; one trip involved going to Toronto to see the Blue Jays play (they just happened to be playing the Orioles) and then to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.   We went to BankOne ballpark in Phoenix (they have a pool in the outfield!---more importantly in Phoenix in the summer, they have a roof and air-conditioning!)  We went to Oriole Park, we went to Turner Field.  We toured Fenway during a blackout on one of the hottest days Boston had ever experienced.    While every trip included baseball, it was not totally about baseball-----we saw Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Pleasant Hill Shaker Plantation in Kentucky, Stone Mountain, Mount Washington, NH----we had great trips. 

One of my very favorite baseball memories is of Cameron at about age 7----he had a game, and I took him to the field, but we arrived before anyone else was there.  He decided to “warm up”, and started pretending he was batting, and then running the bases.  I cannot describe to you how funny it was to watch him get caught in a run down between second and third-----he eventually managed to get to 3rd safely, but those imaginary fielders gave him quite a challenge, back and forth, back and forth----there were some very close calls! 

Both boys went to baseball camp at UR.  It’s a week-long camp, where they work on basic skills every morning and then play games all afternoon----in June or July----in Richmond.  It was always dreadfully hot.  There are all sorts of competitions between the campers, and it all ends with a big awards ceremony on Friday afternoon.  Three trophies are awarded-----Best hitter in the camp, Most Improved Player (over the course of the week), and Mr. Hustle, for the player who gave everything he had all week long.

Before Cameron was old enough to go, we would be there on Aaron’s last day of camp, and Cameron eyed those trophies.  The first year Cameron went as a camper, he eyed those trophies some more.  For the next year, he talked about them.  He wanted one BAD.  He was only about 9 or 10, so he didn’t think he could win Best Hitter, since there were 17 year-olds competing as well.  He talked about Most Improved, and joked that if he acted on Monday as if he didn’t understand the game at all, and then by Friday was showing what he could do, he could win that one (I’ve told you Cameron has a sense of humor!).  But Mr. Hustle----he really thought he had a chance at that one. 

It was hot that week.  Really hot.  Miserably hot.  Humid-hot like Richmond in the summer.  And they spent about 6 hours in the heat every day.  After the morning session, they’d go to the dining hall for lunch, (don’t you know it smelled ripe in there with 300 sweaty boys?!?!), then head back out into the heat to spend the next 3 hours playing.  Every afternoon on the way home, Cameron talked about that trophy.  By Thursday, most of our neighbors had heard about it, and everyone knew that he was confident he was going to win it.  We were ALL worried----what would we say to him when he wasn’t named Mr. Hustle?

On Friday afternoon, I went to the closing ceremony.  When I got there, Cameron came over and gave me an autographed  baseball card that his coach for the week had given him, because the coach told him that he was Mr. Hustle for their team.  I thought that was really nice, that at least coach had noticed that Cameron had really worked hard all week.

So, they went thru all the awards.  A coach got up and made a speech about the competitions involving hitting, and awarded the Best Hitter trophy to a camper on his team.  Another coach got up and named one of his players as the Most Improved player of the whole camp.  And then, much to my surprise----Cameron’s coach walked to the table, picked up the Mr. Hustle trophy, and began talking about a player who gave everything he had all week long, who never complained, never needed a break, was always ready to help, ran to the next event when others were walking-----and then he called Cameron’s name.  And Cameron, who had set his sights on that trophy long before the week ever started, confidently  walked up and claimed it, just like he had known he would.

We all felt like we owed him an apology----we hadn’t believed that he could do it, that he could stand out among 300 campers.  And then Cameron said, “You know, Mom, it was really hard sometimes, but I just kept going.”

What if we all approached life that way?  What if we set our sights on a goal, and gave it everything we had until we achieved that goal?  What if, when it got really hard, we kept going?  What is your goal?  Are you planning on reaching it?  Are you counting on it?  Telling everyone about it?  Confidently?  Are you giving it everything you have?  All the time?  Even when it’s hard, when it’s hot, when it’s not fun?   What is your ultimate goal? 

Matthew 6:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Colossians 3

 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Monday, April 23, 2012

At Arby's Again

In the early 1980's, we were new homeowners, both employed at decent jobs, involved in our church, with no children yet. Somehow we got into the habit of going to Arby's on Sunday nights after church. Honestly, I don't remember much about those dinners, except for one odd thing. There were on each table the standard generic plastic bottles, you know the type where the red squirt bottle was for ketchup and the yellow one for mustard? Well, at that particular Arby's, the ketchup in those bottles was very sour, as if it had fermented. So each week we asked for packets of ketchup, to which we were always told that there was ketchup on the table. Week after we week we had to explain that the ketchup in those bottles was sour---still not sure why no one else apparently noticed that. Anyway, that's not my point here, just a random memory.

We didn't continue that Sunday night Arby's habit once we started our family. In the ensuing years, we raised two kids----how do you adequately summarize what that exactly means? Preschool, elementary, middle, high, college, etc., ball games, doctor's visits, and more. There were jobs and job changes, vacations, home improvements, home sale, home purchase, new nieces and nephews and in-laws, parents moving----in short, life. Lots and lots of great memories.

And the next thing you know, 30 years have gone by. We've seen one child get married, earn his master's degree, and become a father. The second child is about to earn his bachelor's and start grad school. We are so very proud of them---they have defined our lives, our success, although I'm sure society would say that we have that all wrong.

Anyway, now we are grandparents, which is just the icing on the cake. Better than anyone ever made us believe. It is the best. Now our Sunday nights are reserved for little Miss T, whose smile just lights up our world. Hard to wish away a weekend, but we sure look forward to Sunday nights, and hope we get to enjoy this opportunity for a very long time.

Back to Arby's. On our way home almost every week, we stop for dinner. It varies as to where, but more often than not it seems to end up being Arby's. And in some odd way, I find it to be a very reflective time. A chance to think once again on the young, naive, couple with no responsibilities we were in 1982, to the parents and grandparents we are today.

We are truly blessed.

(and as an added bonus, they have Heinz bottles of ketchup on the tables at this Arby's, and it tastes just fine!)

Psalm 127:3 Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. (NIV)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness, Lee Version

We've been rather completely absorbed this weekend in March Madness, although it isn't quite the same without the Spiders in the tournament.  Over the years they have made some great "Cinderella" appearances, and made it to the Sweet 16 round in 2011.  They even got good airtime yesterday as the commentators, on the heels of Norfolk States's win, reviewed the very first time a 15th seed beat a 2nd seed, when Richmond beat Syracuse in 1991.  UR is the only team to win NCAA tournament games as a 12, 13, 14, and 15 seed.  There have been some fun games over the years, just not this year.  Oh well, there's always next season.

So we made our own madness.  When we were shopping for this house in 2004, tops on my list of "must haves" was a big dining room.  I've always had an aversion to holiday events where everyone couldn't eat together in the same room.  Must go back to some childhood trauma of having to eat at the kid's table in the kitchen, or something.  Anyway, that was my goal---a big enough dining room.  Not that I'm a great hostess, but we usually have family and some friends, usually UR students, for Easter dinner, and often host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at our house.  Years ago, that meant 5-7 people, but if all of my side of the family came today, that would be 15, Brian's family 13.

Well, needless to say, our dining room isn't big enough. I've tried being creative by adding a 6-foot folding table somewhere close to the dining room table, but I've found that even parallel, you really can't get more than 10-12 people SQUEEZED into the dining room.  We've tried an "L" shape, adding a card table, a sofa table from the hall----none of the options worked.  At Christmas we had all of my family for my mom's birtdhay celebration, and the overflow table was in the living room.  It just didn't work for me.

Right after that, a good friend stopped by, and was talking about how she had turned her dining room into a playroom for her grandchildren, and moved her dining room furniture to the living room.  A light bulb went on for me.  It could work, but I would have to convince Brian.  You see, for him, the intention of the room is what it is----and shouldn't be changed.  And there was a chandelier in the dining room, no ceiling fixture in the living room.  There were pros, there were cons.  But the deciding factor for him was when I pointed out that if you greeted a guest at our front door, you had to ask them to step inside, then close the door so that they could go left into the living room, while the dining room to the right was completely accessible.  Bad design?  Maybe, but the traffic flow just didn't work for welcoming anyone.

So, with Easter just a few weeks away, last night we did it.  The living room is now the dining room, and the dining room is now the living room.  We still have to move pictures, swap mirrors, and fill in a few empty spots, but it works.  The new living room/old dining room looks inviting, and to the scale that our furniture fits.  The new dining room?  I honestly think that end to end I could have our dining room table, and our kitchen table, and a 6-foot folding table.  That's a minimum of 18-20 people that could fit in there!  It's big, almost cavernous for the furniture we have, but we'll be able to have everyone eat together for Easter, which will make me very, very happy.  It really doesn't take much.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


In June of 2005, our son Aaron spent a week serving on a mission project in the state, and returned home on a Saturday.  The following Wednesday he was leaving for a week in the Bahamas on another project, and then on to Jamaica to work at a Baptist camp for 5 weeks.  His airline tickets had arrived while he was with away for the week, but I had verified that he had his tickets from Richmond to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale to Bahamas, Bahamas to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale to Jamaica, Jamaica to Ft. Lauderdale, and Ft. Lauderdale to Richmond.  His dad and brother were on a church mission trip in Atlanta that week, so it fell my responsibility to get him to the airport for an EARLY flight. 

We left home about 3:30 AM, and let’s just say, I was decent, but not dressed for anything but dropping him off at the curb at the airport, because I was going to go home and back to bed.

Before we even got in the car, I made him show me his tickets for both trips and his passport----he had everything.  As he drove along in the dark, I commented, “Well, today is your cousin Sarah’s 15th birthday.”  He looked at me, and said, “What is today’s date?”  “The 29th,” I answered, to which he replied, “My tickets are dated the 28th.”
I thought he was kidding, but sure enough, they were for the day before.  And because the limit on his credit card wasn’t very high, I knew he couldn’t pay any additional charges to change the ticket, so, dressed as I was in sweats and with ‘bedhead’, I had to go inside the airport.  For something like $282 we got the tickets changed (Cameron likes to say Aaron was a day late and $282 short), he got to the Bahamas, and somehow managed to catch up with the people who probably were waiting for him the day before!

A week later, he headed to Jamaica, at exactly the same time as Hurricane Dennis.   Seriously, the arrival time was the same.  In fact, as I tried to track the flight, I got “No information on this flight”----which was a little unnerving; no it was very unnerving.   However, they arrived safely, managed to get to the camp, and waited out Dennis.  Exactly one week later, Hurricane Emily decided to pay a visit as well, and they actually had to evacuate the camp.   During those times, as we waited for word that they were safe, I vividly remember the hymn, “Till the Storm Passes Over” running through my head over and over again.

On to the point----as Aaron left home I gave him a card, with this Scripture written inside, as a prayer of protection from the sun and the elements while spending most of the summer in the tropics:

Isaiah 4:5-6
Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
 (I had no idea how providential that choice was!)

I later began to think of how many times “clouds” appear in the Bible:

Genesis 9:13
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Exodus 13:21-22
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Exodus 19:9
The LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you." Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.

1 Kings 8:10-12 (after the ark of the covenant was taken into Solomon’s temple)
 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, [a] cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

 Then Solomon said, "The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever."

Psalm 147:8
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.

Isaiah 44:22
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you."

Matthew 17:5
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

Matthew 26:64
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

1 Thessalonians 4:17
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

So often we think of clouds as a negative thing, “It’s such a gray, cloudy, day,” or,   “I feel like I have a huge dark cloud hanging over me.”  I encourage you, the next time you feel like that, remember, God is in the clouds, providing shelter, and shade, and refuge and a hiding place.  And as we all know from flying, just above the clouds, the sun is shining.
At the end of the summer, Aaron returned safely home from Jamaica with a gift for us----a print of the church that provided them with a place to stay when they had to evacuate the camp.  The church is aptly named, Grateful Hill Baptist Church.  It hangs in our front hallway, a constant reminder of God’s provision in the midst of a storm.

(Mosie Lister)
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, and there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Many times Satan whispered, "There is no need to try,
For there's no end of sorrow, there's no hope by and by"
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I'll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.